Despite the Western Sydney Wanderers missing the finals once again last season, the performances of Daniel Margush were highly encouraging.
The 23-year-old has cemented his place as the number one keeper at one of the biggest clubs in the league and is one of many promising youngsters on the books at the Wanderers.
Originally from Adelaide, Margush began playing football for Adelaide Croatia at the age of six. His performances there eventually caught the eye of Adelaide United, who signed him up for their youth team at the age of 16.
“I first started training in the first team when [Josep] Gombau first came in, I’d take mornings off school to come in and train.”
Under Gombau’s successor Guillermo Amor, Margush would make his debut, playing in a 3-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners in 2016. Margush would appear twice more on the bench as Adelaide won the minor premiership and the grand final.
Margush benefitted heavily from being in and around the first team environment from such a young age and was also lucky to be learning from Adelaide United legend Eugene Galekovic.
“Euge was massive, he was at Adelaide for a long so even as a kid I used to always look up to him and hopefully represent Adelaide and emulate what he was doing. I wouldn’t say it was starstruck, but it was someone you really looked up to.
“I think with Euge it was more in terms of his mentality and approach that I would look at the most in how he approaches sessions and games.”
Having a good mentality is especially important as a young goalkeeper, where opportunities to impress are few and far between.
“With Eugene there I was never really in contention to start so I was always training and playing with the youth team. Once [Paul] Izzo came in he was the older one and he’d already been playing at the Mariners, so he’d always signed as the number one.
“In the games I played it was really good. When I did play, I played well. I was really happy with my performances.”
Margush would end up making eight first team appearances in four and a half seasons at Adelaide. He was mostly shifting between being on the bench, out of the squad altogether.
Other goalkeepers may have become downhearted by the inconsistency, but Margush showed maturity in understanding the situation he was in, a maturity required for a young goalkeeper.
“You have to understand your place in the team where you’re not the number one. You’re still young so unfortunately, you’re not gonna get that opportunity to be thrust in there, you have to bounce around until you find somewhere where the coach is willing to throw you in.”
Ultimately, Adelaide was not going to be that place. As his contract wound down, the situation had changed dramatically.
“Towards the end of my time at Adelaide I did end up getting a little frustrated because I began to feel part of the furniture a bit, when you don’t play first team games consistently and I needed something else to get me going again.
“I was coming to the end of my contract, and I knew that I’d have to move, but I kind of got forced by the way I was treated by a few people that are no longer at the club. It wasn’t a good environment for me to be in anymore and I didn’t want to be there anymore. It came a bit more prematurely than I had expected.”
Margush ended up settling at Perth Glory.
“I had interest from several places, it was more me coming to the end of my deal, me wanting to go somewhere else to progress my career and at the time Perth was a good opportunity.
“When signing there I knew [Liam] Reddy was still number one, but I always back myself going into a place. I know I work hard in training and give my all so it was about showing [Tony] Popovic what I can do.”
He didn’t make an appearance in the 2019-20 season marred by COVID-19. However, he was still happy to stay and fight for a place at the Glory after signing a two-and-a-half-year deal.
Then the Wanderers came calling.
“I was at home one day and got a call from the Wanderers and they said they were interested. I weighed up the offer and thought it would be a good opportunity to go there. I felt it was a better opportunity for me to pursue.
“I went to the Glory and said, ‘this is what I have in front of me, can I go?’ And luckily for me they were accommodating of that, and they let me go.”
It was clear that manager Carl Robinson and goalkeeping coach Davide Del Giovine felt they could mould Margush into a top-quality goalkeeper.
“I spoke to the goalkeeping coach Davide, and he told me there’s a good opportunity for you here. The gaffer Carl Robinson likes to play a certain style of football here and you can play that kind of football.”
And despite knowing he had no guarantee of game time, he had the self-belief that he could now challenge for the number one spot.
“You can’t go in conceding your position playing second fiddle, you’ve got to go in with the mentality of I’m coming in to compete for a spot. I came into the Wanderers, Lopar was still here. I came in, worked hard and the situation as it does in football worked out the way it did, and I was the beneficiary of it.”
The situation he is referring to is the sudden departure of Daniel Lopar a week before the season began. For Margush, it was the opportunity he’d been waiting for.
“You have to back yourself, if you don’t believe in yourself no one will. I’ve got that opportunity just go out there do what I know I can do and take it with both hands. Whatever happens, happens.”
And grab it with both hands he did. Margush enjoyed a breakout season in Parramatta, playing every minute of A-League action and impressing fans and pundits alike with his shot-stopping and ability to play out from the back.
With the high expectations and the spotlight that comes with playing at the Wanderers, Margush learnt to focus solely on his own game and to not let any mistakes get the better of him.
“You learn to focus on the fundamentals of your game and the things that you can control. You get your work rate right; you get your concentration and communication right.
“As a young goalkeeper you are always going to make mistakes, but you have to brush them off, learn from them quickly and implement what you’ve learnt into the next game. They are always going to happen, even in the Premier League. It’s not a matter of making mistakes, it’s more learning from them.”
With such a high ceiling, Margush could be forgiven for setting lofty ambitions for his career. But his sole goal right now is to keep improving his own game and to keep his feet on the ground.
“I have a growth mindset, so I try to work on everything, but I think I’d like to be more commanding in dictating where players need to be at certain times, and just building on the previous campaign, just try to back it up and keep working hard.
“You can’t get ahead of yourself. You can have aspirations for where you want to be in x number of years, but you can’t set your sights on that without focusing on the day-to-day stuff. It’s about tackling every training session and every game as it comes. If you do that, you’ll eventually get to that place you want to be.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Wanderers fans are happy that they are in safe hands with Margush in the side.